For a change, a reasonable day at Qalandiya.
05.15. It is already beginning to be light. Perhaps that is why we do not see the large groups at prayer at the parking lot. Tomorrow night we will be moving the clocks forward, so next week it will once again be dark at this hour. Inside the checkpoint the lines extend beyond the shed. The beigel seller is present, but the cake sellers have disappeared. A youth with a thermos sells coffee (he usually stands out on the road). The kiosk is open outside.
All 5 checking stations are open and passage is at a reasonable pace. The soldier in the aquarium lets in few people at each turn of the turnstile, but opens it frequently, so that people do feel they are advancing. Women are allowed to fit in at the entrance to the cages. Soon after 6, the woman soldier is replaced by a male soldier, who is less alert to the situation in the lines. But when people called out to him, he responded. People told us that the situation had been reasonable all week. Yesterday – in fact, when a human rights group visited – there were no lines at all and the turnstiles were kept open (as reported by our colleagues Ina and Virginia).
On the signs posted last week , intended for merchants, someone has sprayed black paint over the symbol of the Civil Administration. Apparently there is not much affection for this institution …
When we arrived, the gate to the humanitarian passage was open physically, but passage was of course impossible as after the gate is a turnstile operated from within the aquarium. As people gathered at the gate, they themselves closed it and waited outside it. Time passed, 6 o’clock was way past, phone-calls did not help. Meanwhile a crowd waited. Some people preferred to join the regular lines. A guard and a D.C.O. woman officer, accompanied by a woman soldier, arrived very late, to open the humanitarian gate. It seemed that it was the guard who controlled the situation. We know him to be firm, but efficient. In a few minutes the line at the humanitarian gate was through. He also instructed the soldier in the aquarium when to open the turnstiles, which eased the situation in the regular line.
We went outside for tea. As reported on Sunday, the broken metal fencing has been removed entirely. Now the queues are ‘bordered’ outside only on one side. As one can see in the picture, there are still lines next to the kiosk.
At one stage a man and woman with a small child arrived, with a car seat. After long negotiation with the soldier and guard, who tried by phone to clarify their situation, the woman turned back, and only the man and child passed. Another man helped him to take through the car seat.
At about 7 the lines were within the shed. At 7.05 we joined one. After we passed the turnstiles we noticed signs that had apparently been there some days. They informed the public that yesterday was to be a “day of cancellation of refusals” for inhabitants of Qalandiya camp. All those refused permits by Security were invited to come to the D.C.O. From experience of other places, we know that some refusals are indeed cancelled, but many people are disappointed.
In the line at checking station no.2, youths who saw us photographing and reading the notice, tried to tell us that old folk are allowed through only after 8 o’clock. Another man smiled and said: Don’t you see that they are Jews? They can pass ..”. Afterwards we spoke with him and he claimed that yesterday, because of the visit by the human rights delegation, care was taken to let people pass without delay. He felt everything was under the control of the soldiers and that if their commander gave the order they could get people through much faster.
It took us about twenty minutes to pass.